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What Do Hydrogen Fuel Cells Mean For The Future Of STEAM?

By Mark G. McLaughlin

California's re-integration of the Arts into it education programs has turned STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) into STEAM – with the "a" for the arts. STEAM challenges and inspires students in the sciences to be more creative, both in how they approach the sciences and in how those sciences can best be applied. Hydrogen-fuel-cell technology and its application require and reward just that kind of creativity.

The science of hydrogen fuel cell technology

There is an elegant simplicity to hydrogen fuel cell technology. Hydrogen, which can be easily and inexpensively extracted from water (one of the earth's most plentiful and renewable resources) is combined with oxygen in a chamber. An electrolyte moves the electricity created by the chemical reaction of these two gases out through anodes to a battery. That battery can store electricity for later use.

Mathematics and engineering meet the hydrogen fuel cell

It is not enough that scientists have developed and are continuing to improve and develop hydrogen fuel cell technology, Scientists create technology. Mathematicians calculate what that technology can do – or how much of it is needed to do something. Engineers make it work, applying that technology so that it can be used. A hydrogen fuel battery can power almost anything, including an automobile engine or devices found on a spaceship. (The Apollo program made extensive use of this technology). Making it do so – and determining how many batteries are needed and how they are to be incorporated into a design that utilizes them – is where mathematics and engineering come into play.

The arts take hydrogen fuel technology to the next level

Artists, are by nature, creative. Studying the arts helps those who study the sciences think beyond the technology they have discovered to find even more ways to use it – and to make people want to use it. That is why automobile companies rely on artists to design, sculpt models and create prototypes of the vehicles into which they put new technology – including hydrogen fuel technology. It is not enough, for example, that the Toyota Mirai functions efficiently as a hydrogen cell powered car – it has to look and feel like a car someone would want to sit in, drive and buy. Artists take the technology discovered by scientists and applied by mathematicians and engineers to that next level; a level at which it becomes not only acceptable, but desirable, and as a thing of beauty, not merely function.


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